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During Diagnosis and Treatment

Daily Schedule and Family Routine

photoEach child in your family has an established daily schedule that has evolved to be appropriate for his age, interests, and the shared needs of the family. Whatever your child’s usual schedule, it is an important source of stability and security for her. When most of a child’s schedule remains predictable and familiar in spite of the changes surrounding your illness, life feels reassuringly normal. Breaks in the family routine are inevitable, and different children and families will have different needs, but keeping important aspects of a child’s life consistent conveys a sense of stability and security—and the familiar daily routine can feel like an oasis from worries about your medical condition.

Your child’s daily schedule

Writing a daily schedule on paper can help you manage the complexity of family life, and can be an organizational resource for older children. All activities, school assignments, events, and important deadlines can be listed on the family calendar. It becomes the shared responsibility of the child and the parent to record key information in this one place for all to see. A centrally posted daily schedule or calendar also assists family members, friends, or hired caregivers who may be called upon to get your child ready for school or supervise after-school time. Even if this caregiver does not get everything exactly right, the schedule may help her ask appropriate questions, and conveys to your child that you are mindful of his needs even when you are not present.

Your family routine

First, consider daily, weekly, and seasonal family activities. Do you eat breakfast or dinner together? Is there a favorite TV show that the family watches as a group? Do you have a take-out night or video rental night? Do you attend religious services on a particular day? Do you have a regular summer vacation spot? Do you spend certain holidays with extended family locally or at a distance?

Predictable family rhythms are great for children. They provide soothing background music for family life. Get input from your children about favorite family activities. Once you have a clear sense of your established family patterns, decide which regular events you will try to maintain. You will want to balance the demands of your health needs with family priorities and the individual schedules of each of your children. Living with an illness makes it easy to forget routines, unless maintaining them becomes a real priority.

Family meals

A common theme among professionals who work with children is the value of family dinners. If you don’t regularly eat together as a family, consider trying to do so at least a couple of nights each week. This is a wonderful opportunity for regular communication and offers a way to update your children about potential changes in scheduling and routines.

Turn off the telephone during family time

Part of making family time special is focusing your full attention on your children. This is their time with you, and it should not be spent talking with friends, relatives, or other adults. For example, let others know that from after school until bedtime, you will not be available to talk on the phone about your health or give updates on tests, treatments, or future plans. These conversations can make it seem to children like sickness is always the focus and increase the likelihood that children will overhear confusing or worrisome medical news. It is much better for your child to hear such information directly from you at a planned moment.

Sharing your home

If your treatment necessitates changes in how the rooms in your home are used, you’ll want to think about how this will affect each of your children. Your children are likely to feel some stress when they must share your home with new caregivers, family members, and well-wishers.

Whenever possible, allow your children to remain in their own bedrooms. When a child needs to share his room, talk about ways to lessen the intrusion and encourage your child to voice the particular aspects of sharing that are most difficult. Doing so may lead to a better plan and a child who feels more respected and understood. Sometimes the den or family room is sacrificed, so you might want to think about ways to make another space or part of a room a more comfortable hang-out area.